Robert Morehead.

A series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) online

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duty, and all your glorious prospects of


you* hearts are yet
tjie f sentiments of your late
professions and engagements ; come, and
assemble round the altar of Him, in
whose name the waters of baptism were
at first poured upon your heads ; of
Him who has now, in your riper years,
" shewn you the Father," and called you,
amidst the happiness of opening exist-
ence, to acknowledge the God of love
and of every true joy ; of Him, who
walks before you in the road of duty,
and reclaims you from all the wanderings
of sin, and, amidst the gathering evils of
life, sheds abroad upon your hearts the
consolations of his Spirit, and cheers even
" the valley of the shadow of death,"
by the day-spring of immortality from on
high ! Come and repeat your vow, to
*' continue his faithful servants for ever ; "
and be well assured, whatever may be the
colour of your future days, whether they


lead you through joy or sorrow, that if
you do not forsake him, He will never
abandon you !

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MARK, iv. 40.

" And he said unto them. Why are ye so
"fearful? How is it that ye have no
"faith?" ft-jrf

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IN my two last discourses from the Gospel

of St Mark, f I endeavoured to illustrate
the manner in which our Lord was in use
to deliver his instructions. I am now
led tq observe, that instruction is oc-
casionally conveyed in several of the in-

* Preached on Easter Sunday,
f See Discourses VIII. and IX.



cidents which befell him, to a much
greater extent than appears at first from
the simple narrative ; and that many of
his observations", which seem only to refer
to the particular circumstances in which
He or his disciples happened to be placed,
may be applied to various other situations
in human life.

This remark cannot be better illustrat-
ed than by the striking incident to which
we are now come in the course V)f 6\ir
inquiries, and which -is related by the
Evangelist in the following words : " cPhe
" same day, when the even was come, he
"'Salth'Virito them, 'Uet'tis Bias's Wet. 1Mb
" the otherside. And there arose'a ^r"ea*t
" stdrm of wind, "artd the %aves Be'&t into
" the ship, so that it Siva's now fiiH. And
<< he was in ihe hinder ^part
"asleep ; 6n a pillow ; } Krid
" him, and say unto him, Master, carest
" thounotthatwe'fierish? Arid he arose,
." and rebuked the wind, and said unto


' the sea, Peace, be still ; and the wind
" ceased, and there was a great calm.
" And he said unto them, Why are ye so
" fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?
" And they feared exceedingly, and said
" one to another, What manner of man is
" this, that even the wind and the sea
" obey him ?"

I know not, my brethren, that I can
better employ your time at present than
in drawing from this interesting occur-
rence those religious reflections to which
it so naturally gives rise, and which will
be found, in some respects, applicable to
those great solemnities in which we have
just been engaged.

There cannot be a doubt, then, that
much of the unhappiness of mankind is
to be ascribed to their want of faith in
the protection of Heaven ; and that, in
their voyage through the stormy waves
of the world, they would enjoy infinitely


greater tranquillity, if they kept their eyes
steadily fixed upon that Almighty Pro-
tector, who may seem, perhaps, to sleep
in the midst of their perplexities and dan-
gers, but whose watchful care is ever at
hand, arid who, with one word, can rebuke
the winds and the sea, and restore the
calm. Wherever we look around us, we
see men miserable from the cares and af-
flictions of life ; and it is impossible, cer-
tainly, to pass through this scene of mu-
tability and of trial, without feeling, and
often feeling deeply, the distresses to
which our nature is exposed. When the
affluent are reduced to poverty, when
some dear tie of social or domestic life is
broken, when, looking beyond private
afflictions, we contemplate the wide-spread
calamities of nations, in ah 1 these cir-
cumstances, we, no doubt, see enough
to call forth tears and sorrow ; and it
would be unnatural to meet them with


insensibility. It is not because they feel
the evils of their condition, that men
are to be reproved, but because they
despond under them, and thus add im-
measurably to their weight. It is because
they are guilty of that irreligious despon-
dency, which refuses to acknowledge the
protecting hand of Providence ; and when
the tempest is abroad, and the ship is co-
vered with the waves, trembles lest the
Ruler of the Universe is asleep.

In every situation of human misery,
this species of despondency is particular-
ly to be avoided ; and that its groundless-
ness and unworthiness may appear, it
may perhaps be useful to examine, some-
what more minutely, those different in-
stances of affliction at which I have hinted,

I. There is not, perhaps, an affliction
which, at first sight, appears more griev-
ous than the fall from affluence to po-


verty ; and, as is often the case in the
storms of commercial adventure, there is
none which may occur more suddenly,
or which strikes a greater horror into the
surrounding spectators. It is grievous,
no doubt, for him who has long enjoyed
the luxuries of life, to accommodate him-
self to its wants and its hardships : it is
more grievous to bring down that pride of
the heart, which has loved distinction, and
which cannot bear to lose it : it is more af-
flicting still, to a good mind, to see the ob-
jects of its dearest affections and hopes
foregoing all their fairest prospects in
society, and, instead of that independence
which seemed to be their lot, encounter-
ing the labours of a lower station.

There is no one possessed of the feel-
ings of a man, who will not sympathize
deeply with those who are subjected to
such sufferings ; but it is not suffering
only that we see upon these occasions


ntft ( imc6mmotily despair. Under the
freavy Mow o ; f adversity, the heart too
often close's even to those feelings Which
biftd it W 'existence ; and it is against this
(ffa^rfciVefeis A 6? the soul, Which is frequently
fo'IfoSved by fcu6h mefiuVcholy results, that
Reiijgloft Raises her Voice, arid cries aloud
t'6 'thde Vho a're trembling amidst the
storhrs of :Fortitne, " Why are ye so fear-
" ftn* ? H'ow is it that ye have no faith ?"
Suffer for a motnerit the waves of fate to
clash over you, yet teat not that your
hkp>piriess Will be wrecked for ever. There
Js Oh'e Watching over it, and sitting near
yo j u, <>irho, rf you will await his rising, will
f ebuke the winds arid the sea, and restore
a catm grea'ter than that which you have

O /

-lost ; not, perhaps, the deceitful calm of
prosperity, but the enduring calm of a
virtuous and religious mind. From the
bosom 'of yo'ur gathering misfortunes will
spring Virtue's which you have never


known ; and, instead of fortune, you will
leave to your children the example of
wisdom, moderation, and piety.

It is not, indeed, too much to say, my
brethren, that the hour in which the rich
man has fallen into poverty, he has often
had afterwards occasion to consider as the
hour which brought him his greatest bles-
sings, as the hour which has made him
acquainted with himself, and with what
is truly valuable in human existence, as
the hour which, in the rough but salutary
school of adversity, has given to himself
and to his family that serious cast of
thought, and that manly firmness of cha-
racter, which would otherwise, perhaps,
have been utterly destroyed and dissipated
amidst the follies and the littleness of the
world !

&-.- [ lfiiMfVdcigfbr M fibh ui<-.:.

; II. There are, however, evils of another

description, from which even the most


^ J UHk

prosperous are not exempt, and which
often, indeed, seem to fix their sting, with
more than common malignity, in the
breasts of those upon whom the sunshine
of Fortune smiles. There are minds, too,
firm against all the attacks of adversity,
which yet sink under every wound given
to their hearts, and which, when Death
unlooses the bonds of love that are wound
around them, seem to themselves to be
cut off from all the props of their being.
There is a principle of affection and of
sensibility in such characters, which is, no
doubt, highly interesting ; but when they
obstinately persist in thinking, that with
the ties of mortal connection all their
happiness is dissolved for ever, it is time
for the voice of Religion to be heard,
" Why are ye so fearful ? How is it that
" ye have no faith ?" Who was it that
knit these bonds of love, on which the
blessing of your existence has hitherto


hung? Was it the disposition of some


happy accident ? O no ! These holy ties
were bound by One who rides securely
through the storm, that has rent and
shattered them. The sails that bore you

rsy > * J fr>

smoothly along over the se^ of life, n>ay
now be the sport of tfye winds, or rnay Jbe
buried in the waves : but can you abandon
yourselves to despair, when y r pu lopk qn

the serene countenance of Him who re-

poses near you, and whp will spon arige
and infuse into your hearts the calm pf his
benevolent Spirit ? Tims |t . js ? wh,e,n
death deprives us of those whom we love,
that we are called upon by Religion t,o re-
ly, with affectionate confidence, upon the
great Being who bestowed on us at first
these our choicest blessings, and who,
when he thinks fit to remove them, is
still the same God <' whose mercy endur-
" eth for ever." Whatever object ofpur
affections he recals from us, he hiniself


is never removed, and we then, perhaps,
learn best to cling to Him, when all our
mortal hopes are perishing around us. t

JIL There are, in the third place, pubr
lie afflictions ; and there are occasions
when we tremble amidst the storms of
our country, and of the world. Here,
too, the call of Religion meets us, and
when, in the perplexity of our souls, we
s,ay, " Master, carest thou not that we
" perish?" we hear the words, of reproof,
" Why are ye so fearful ? How is it that
" ye have no faith ?" The fortunes of na-
tions, we are instructed, do not ultimate-
ly depend on the short-sighted designs
of human policy. They who seem most
active in guiding the ship, arid who fancy
that they only can save it from the storm,
have perhaps the least real influence on
its direction and the great Governor of
the world, whom they may ijnagine to



be slumbering amidst their exertions,
may silently be preparing the calm in
which his people shall repose. When,
then, the world is laid waste by the waves
of ambition, or when internal factions
are impeding the progress of the ship in
which we are embarked, while we perform
with zeal the duties allotted to us as Citi-
zens and as Christians, let us trust the
event to Him who can rebuke the winds
and the sea, who "can still the noise
" of its waves, and the tumult of the

" people."

;T ' 'vutijji, oii -.. /j-iii oy **

IV. There is, in the fourth place, one
general calamity to which all men are
subjected, and which occasions, at some
time or other, fears in every breast. We
are well aware that the voyage in which
we are engaged must come to a close, but
we are greatly ignorant of the period of its
termination, and cannot but look forward.


with anxiety, to the destiny which then
awaits us. We, indeed, contrive, for the
most part, to occupy our thoughts- with
the passing circumstances and adventures
of our course ; and, while the sea is
smooth, and the sun is gilding it with its
rays,, and we pass near delightful shores,
to which the gales of hope are ever waft-
ing us, we can frequently drown, in a
pleasing oblivion, all thought of that dark
and unknown region. But when a storm
begins to arise, then we tremble, and look
with anxious alarm on the impending
danger. We then see the gulf opening
to receive us, and cry, in the agony of
our souls, " Master, carest thou not that
*' we perish ?" ' It is then, my brethren,
that the voice of Religion speaks to us in
the language of mingled reproof and as-
surance. Here again it says, " Why are
** ye so fearful ? How is it that ye have
* no faith ?" It shews us One who conde-



scended to accompany our voyage through
the sea of mortality, who, along with
us, seemed to be sinking in the ship,^
but who, in the awful hour when the
waves were covering us, and when even
he, for a time, slept the slumber of the
dead, rose, as on this day, triumphant
and serene amidst the wreck of nature,
and rebuked the winds and the seas, and
breathed around him the calm of immor-
tal hope ! This calm may now for ever
be our portion, if we wih 1 remain his. faith-
ful disciples. The true shore ta which
our voyage tends will brighten as we ap-
proach to it. The Sun of Righteousness
will shine over us, and the shadow of
death itself will not be able to quench
his rays !

-as bns 'iiioitp'i Jjsi'umnf io 'j^fcuaimi oik
V,..,But, have we wandered far from

that course of our lasting peace ? Has
the storm surprised us amidst our wan-


derings ? And, are we fearful lest we
perish before the friendly voice can be
heard, which alone can restore the still-
ness of conscience ? This is, indeed, the
most intolerable evil to which man is
subject, the consciousness of guilt, and
the consequent gloom which is thereby
thrown on all his prospects of futurity !
With what eagerness men have at all
times sought a cure for this wound of the
spirit, is evident from the practice of sa-
crifice, so prevalent in the ancient world,
when the poor sinner was glad to have
recourse to the " blood of bulls and of
" goats," in the fond imagination that
" it could take away sins." Yet, in the
lowest condition of the human under-
standing, it was impossible that the mind
could repose, with any satisfaction, in the
belief, M that in such sacrifices God would
" have pleasure ;" and, while the melan-
choly attempt to appease the wrath of


Heaven was constantly repeated, it
as constantly found to be vain.

In this cheerless state of Religion, in
this wreck of conscience &nd of man*T^-
when the y^e of Despair was feebly ut-
tering the words, " Master, carest thou
" not that we perish ?"^7-La that awful
moment;, the Saviour of the world said,
" It is finished, and bowed hk head, and
* gave up the ghost" Tfre mighty ex-
-piatipn was wow for evear accomplished ;
,$l>d he arof^e &om the ,sl0ep of deatib, and
rebuked the storms of a guilty world, and
said* "Peace, be . still ;~rand the wind
** ceased, and there was a great 42alm \"
From the period of those great events,
whiek tl>e solemnities o; t3je >altar kave
brought so clearly before us, Religion
has been fr^ed of every tbiug that; wag
dark and unsatisfactory,- the veil of the
temple has been rent in twai> rand sin-
fill man may now approach, by ** a new


u and hVmg way," to contemplate the
beauty of the mercy of God I '

Are ye then desirous, my brethren, to
forsake your sins, to regain the favour
of your Maker, and to be now, at length,
numbered among his children ? Have ye
prayed to Him in secret to restore you,
and do you resolve from henceforth to go
on in the strength of his Spirit ? Have you
prostrated yourselves, this day, at the
foot of the Cross ? Then, " Why are ye
" so fearful ? How is it that ye have no
" faith?" " Who is he that condemneth ?
" It is Christ that died, yea rather that
" is risen again, who is even at the right
" hand of God, who also maketh inter-
" cession for us." Contemplate his suf-
ferings for you, and doubt of forgiveness
if you can ! Weep, but let your tears
be tears of joy: " Go and sin no more !"

That we may ever be prepared a-
gainst our future dangers, it is wise


in us to seek, at times, the peaceful shel-
ter of the altar. There, I trust, we
have now refitted ourselves from the
storm, and have become strengthened for
the course that is yet before us. There,
too, I trust, we have felt the power of
Him who conducts us through the deep ;
and, instead of continuing fearful and
without faith, have been encouraged ta
fall down before him, and to exclaim, in
all the fervour of devotion, " What man-
" ner of man is this, that even the wind
# and the sea obey him ?"



* > * i

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MARK, v. 36.

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" -4s soon as Jesus heard the word that was


" spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the
" synagogue, Be not afraid, only be-

IN the chapter, my brethren, to which I
have now come, in the course of my
reflections on the Gospel of St Mark,
there are three very remarkable miracles
of our Lord narrated. In the first of these,
glnoLbru w-.^ifo fta if I ! mif! nr svorfoH o

.Jfoi, *. Preached on Trinity Sunday.


that of casting out the legion of Devils
from the maniac whom he met among the
tombs, the authority of Jesus over im-
pure spirits, and over the agitations of the
human mind, is strikingly displayed. In
the second, the cure of the woman, whose
timid modesty prevented her from declar-
ing her malady to him, but whose strong
faith looked for remedy, if she might
touch but his garment, we see exempli-
fied both his power over the diseases of
the human body, and the value which he
put upon that principle of Faith, so often
the subject of his commendation. In the
third miracle, that of raising the daugh-
ter of Jairus, we perceive that he is the
Lord of life and of death, ^and we hear
him, in the text, calling on those who are
alarmed with the appearances of the close
of mortal existence, hot to be afraid, but
to believe in him ! In all these incidents
there is much room for reflection. I


shall take notice of a few particulars in
each of them ; but my chief object shall
be, to explain the nature of that Faith,
which it is the design of them all to re-

In the first of these incidents, there
are several difficulties. It is one of the
strongest instances recorded in the Gos-
pels, of the singular power which Evil
Spirits, at that time, possessed over the
minds of men. In several of the ac-
counts given us of our Lord's casting
out devils, we might suppose that this
was merely a metaphorical expression
for the Cure of insanity: but here we
find that he actually converses with these
Evil Spirits, and that he permits them to
take refuge in a herd of swine. There
does then seem to have been a real in-
fluence permitted in those ages, to these
wicked beings, over the minds of some
individuals. To all outward appearance,


however, this influence seemed, as I have
before remarked, to bear the closest re-
semblance to insanity ; and there never,
I believe, was a more affecting picture of
that horrible malady than that which is
here given us. " When he was come
out of the ship, immediately there met
" him, out of the tombs, a man with an
" unclean spirit, who had his dwelling
" among the tombs, and no man could
" bind him ; no, not with chains : because
'* that he had been often bound with fet-
" ters and chains ; and the chains had
" been plucked asunder by him, and the
*' fetters broken in pieces ; neither could
*' any man tame him. And always,
" night and day, he was in the mountains
" and in the tombs, crying and cutting
" himself with stones." This wretched
man seems to have felt, however indis-
tinctly, that Jesus could bring him relief:
so that when he saw him afar off, he ran


and worshipped him ; at the same time
crying, in his frenzy, " What have T to
" do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the
" Most High God? I adjure thee, by
" God, that thou torment me not."

Our Saviour immediately cast out the
devils ; and the next difficulty which oc-
curs, respects the permission which he
gave them to enter into the herd of swine,
which was feeding there " nigh unto the
" mountains ;" when immediately " the
" herd ran violently down a steep place,
" and were choked in the sea." It has
been well observed respecting this singular
circumstance, that, as it was contrary to
the law of the Jews to have such animals in
their possession, so this permission of our
Saviour was a proper method of punish-
ing the proprietors of the herd, for their
disobedience to the Divine institutions of
their country. There seems, likewise,
to be a moral instruction shadowed out


in this incident, and the manner in
which the herd of swine, when they were
possessed by the unclean spirits, " ran
" violently down a steep place into the
" sea," may present us with a lively pic-
ture of the effects of sensual habits, by
which men are first reduced to the most
brutal condition, and are afterwards hur-
ried violently to their destruction.

Upon being restored to his right mind,
the man who had been possessed, natu-
rally felt the utmost gratitude towards his
benefactor, and prayed him, we are told,
that he might be permitted to become
one of his. followers. " Howbeit Jesus
" suffered him not, but saith unto him,
" Go home to thy friends, and tell them
" how great things the Lord hath done
" for thee, and hath had compassion
" on thee." These words convey to
us much instruction, and carry evident
proofs of the composure and reasonable-


ness of sound religion. It is not at
all uncommon for men, 'particularly of
susceptible imaginations, whenever they
iiave acquired ' any strong impressions,
rf the Jtrutfe : and the importance of
Christianity,* immediately to suppose, that
at .is their (duty to give up all their cus~
iomary connections and occupations ; li
ebeietyy and to take upon themselves
some spiritual mission for the general
good of the human race. This is thought
-by many to be the truest sign of a strong
nd lively faith, and they will scarcely
admit any to be really Christians who do
not, at die same time, attempt to become

' 111 the passage before us, our Saviour
seems to give a very instructive admo-
nition to persons of this character. - In
the warmth of his gratitude, the poor
man who had been possessed was desir^-
to djUit aW his original pursuits, and


to dedicate himself solely to the ministry
of Christ ; but his gracious Master saw
probably that a person whose mind had
suffered so severe a shock, was not the
fittest instrument that could be chosen
for a service, which, while it required men
to be " harmless as doves," required them
likewise to be " wise as serpents :" at all
events, he saw that this individual would
both be happier in the quiet of domestic
society, and might likewise be much more
useful, while to those who could sympa-
thize with all his feelings, and had suf-
fered so much from the spectacle of his
calamity, he would often relate, with
tears of grateful Faith, " how great things
'* the Lord had done for him," and what
compassion he had on him.

It is by a departure from this simple
line of conduct that many men of sensibi-
lity and of warm imaginations, who receive,
perhaps, sudden impulses respecting Di-


vine truth, so often run into enthusiastic
delusions, and apparently do all they can
to render themselves and their religion ob-
jects of ridicule to the world. They are too
apt to conceive, that their sudden convic-
tions are of a miraculous nature, and con-
tain a call to them to forsake all and to
follow Christ. They thus set out upon ex-
travagant schemes, to which the situation

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Online LibraryRobert MoreheadA series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) → online text (page 10 of 18)